Libraries Round the World: San Antonio’s Plaza Hotel

My hometown of San Antonio, Texas, has a small private library for resident use only. Now called the Granada Homes, the historic 250-room Plaza Hotel, is located on the downtown’s Riverwalk. Old black and white photos hanging in the lobby showed its grand past.

San Antonio’s Plaza Spanish-style hotel opened in stages starting in the 1920s, about 20 years after New York’s French chateau-style hotel opened. The most critical update, to endure Texas summers, was the addition of air-conditioning in the 1930s. Plans for a large complex of buildings near the hotel, similar to Rockefeller Center in New York City, was derailed by the Great Depression.

Despite a location on the river, the hotel is a few blocks from more touristy areas and other upscale hotels. Additional factors led to a decline in stature over the years until the 1960s when it became an apartment house. Over the years, the hotel changed with the times. The fancy ceilings were dropped for a sprinkler system. But old touches, such as the colorful Spanish tiles and wooden interiors, remain.

The ballroom on the 14th floor is still used for parties and offers excellent views of downtown. A large outdoor patio and roof garden is located on the third floor. And the residents have access to a lending library near the lobby entrance.

The residents I met during my brief visit recognized the unique building and its grandeur, despite fading over the years and actively use the assortment of meeting areas. Repurposing old buildings may be costly but are worthwhile in the long run. Many historic buildings across the country and in my new hometown of Philadelphia are being recycled and saved from demolition.

For more details on the original hotel and its transformation, the San Antonio Express-News conveniently published an article the day after my visit.

And if you haven’t been to San Antonio yet, it’s not that hard to get to. About an hour+ drive south of Austin. In 2018 the city celebrated 300 years dating from the founding of Mission San Antonio de Valero aka the Alamo. But I can promise you the party will continue for another 300 years.

Karen Stensgaard is the author of the novel AQUAVIT, the first book in the Aquamarine Sea Series with a second novel on the way soon. AQUAVIT is available as a paperback from Amazon and Ingram Spark or as an e-book from almost everyone else. Libraries have free access via Overdrive.  Link to free chapters on Amazon


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